After the heart attacking of Tanzanian President John Magufuli and subsequent installation of the World Economic Forum girl Samia Suluhu Hassan has raised fears about much harsher pressure coming against Burundi for its continued refusal to not take vaccines into their country. President Évariste Ndayishimiye is against this lockdown agenda in Burundi though more moderate than his late predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza while holding the line against bringing vaccines into Burundi. While the fear of measures such as blockades against Burundi are understandable, there are a complex set of conflicts in the 1990s and 2000s which leave Burundi in position not only just to refuse the vaccines but cause a lot of pain for those who would dare try to coerce the country to take them in.
In many countries in the African Great Lakes region, the 1990s were marked by devastation, war, genocide, and refugee outflows.
In Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, a man born into a wealthy ethnic Hutu family, seized power in a military coup in 1973. At first he was welcomed both by Hutus and Tutsis given he gave the illusion of not wanting to give preferential treatment to the Hutus in Rwanda. His policies would later become blatantly discriminatory against the Tutsis through quotas of applications to jobs for universities and government services for the Hutus.
As his reign went on, Habyarimana became more and more unpopular, his support was reduced to the Hutu extremist group Akazu. Habyarimana had to face the problem as well of over 300,000 Tutsi refugees and their children who fled Rwanda to Uganda when the Tutsi monarchy was overthrown by a Hutu led Republic in 1962.
In 1990, the French, IMF, World Bank and other key backers of Habyarimana were demanding economic reforms and political reforms from the dictator who wasn’t too keen on it, especially as things across the border in Uganda were looking more and more difficult for him.
In October of 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front led by the Tutsi leaders Paul Kagame and Fred Rwigyema and the Rwandan Armed Forces began to clash in what started the Rwandan Civil War. A couple thousand Ugandan troops also invaded Rwanda. In the immediate fighting the RPF advanced dozens of miles into the country to Gabiro. Rwanda is a small country so these advances were quite significant and it had the element of surprise against Habyraimana’s forces and their French, Belgian, and Zaire backers.
France, Belgium, and Zaire did intervene though in the defense of the Hutu dictator while the French and Belgians weren’t as involved in the intervention, Zaire aggressively went after RPF forces but their soldiers raped, looted, and pillaged Rwandan ciitizens, leaving Habyarimana with no choice but to kick them out or face total defeat at the hands of the RPF.
In January of 1991, the city of Ruhengeri where Habyariamana, his wife, and a lot of the elites around him came from, was captured by the RPF forces. The city would change hands during different times during the war but the events in Ruhengeri left the Rwandan Army trying its hardest to shell the RPF positions in the Virunga mountains but the RPF hit frequently and repeatedly.
Early 1993, the Rwandan government had admitted it lost control of territory in the North of the country and a significant portion would be a demilitarized zone for the time being.
While the Rwandan armed forces did grow in size the training was very poor and they would often be abusive and rape civilians while the RPF was a lot more disciplined.
The February offensive saw the RPF rapidly gain Ruhengeri and Byumba rapidly approaching the capital Kigali.
On February 20th, 1993 when the RPF was 19 miles from the capital of Kigali and as the French were intervening to prop up the embattled dictator, they declared a ceasefire.
Throughout the year attempts to negotiate a peaceful settlement in Arusha Tanzania had worked off and on, while in Kigali, the Hutu extremist groups would surge.
In October 1993, Burundi, which similarly had the Hutu vs Tutsi divisions descended into civil war after the democratically elected Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye was killed. The aftermath led to Hutus attacking supporters of the Tutsi political parties, while mostly Tutsis, there were also Hutus attacked as well. The coup attempt failed to get total regime change in Burundi but the civilian government was permanently weakened as a result of the assassination of Ndadaye.
A three faction civil war would break out in Burundi as a result of these events between the Burundian government, Tutsi militants backed by the RPF (would become the Rwandan government), and the Hutu factions led by the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), which included leaders such as a certain General Évariste Ndayishimiye who is the current President of Burundi.
On April 6th, 1994, the ceasefire in Rwanda utterly collapsed when Rwandan President Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira’s plane was shot down killing both Presidents. It is disputed as to whether the RPF was behind it or the extremist Hutu groups who hated both Presidents for not being extreme enough in going after the Tutsis. Nevertheless that would lead to the beginning of three months of utter hell that we now know as the Rwandan genocide. Depending on the numbers you believe the death toll ranges from hundreds of thousands to a million Tutsis dead as a result of that horrific genocide.
The Rwandan genocide coupled with the anti Tutsi violence in Burundi led to an enormous number of Tutsi refugees fleeing into Zaire and forming heavily armed groups.
Despite the Hutu extremist groups carrying out the Rwandan genocide on July 4th 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front took the capital of Kigali.
While Kigali and most of Rwanda was captured by the RPF, the French still held out in the Southwest until late August when the war was entirely lost for Paris.
In the months after the capture of Kigali and the eventual French withdraw from the Rwandan Southwest, the new Tutsi government led by then Vice President and defacto leader Paul Kagame began the effort of consolidating power in the war ravaged ethnically split nation. Predictably after the genocide a lot of Hutus and Hutu groups fled Rwanda fearing reprisals and they fled to Zaire.
Meanwhile in Burundi the different governments that came into power utterly failed to bridge the ethnic divides and in fact Tutsi extremist groups in parts of Burundi had led to both more radical Hutu groups getting more active, but also to a lot of Hutus fleeing to Zaire and taking up arms with the larger Hutu groups like the CNDD-FDD. The period of 1994-1996 in Burundi saw a total collapse in the authority of the Central Government.
In Rwanda the RPF which became the new Rwandan Armed Forces were consolidating power domestically but were facing regular attacks from Hutu groups both moderate, mainstream, and extremist from neighboring Zaire. Uganda was facing attacks from Zaire by the salafist extremist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) who were backed by Sudan. Under longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire was facing an ever growing list of challenges, especially an economy in shambles, debt sky high, and the treasury plundered by Mobutu.
As the ethnic tensions in Zaire between the Hutu and Tutsi factions exploded more and more Rwanda under Paul Kagame and its ally Uganda under Yoweri Museveni armed Tutsi groups against the Hutus in Zaire. The Tutsis main group that was formed was the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) and the group was led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila a Marxist revolutionary who ran a Marxist ministate from 1967 to 1988 in a remote mountainous part of the country till it was crushed by Mobutu’s forces.
The first Congo conflict started in October of 1996 and due to the poor organization of Zaire’s armed forces in the East, the Rwandan Ugandan rebels captured a lot of territory in the East pretty quickly. Mobutu needed foreign mercenaries in his effort to regain the Eastern rebel controlled parts of Zaire. The intervention of Rwanda and Uganda had left Mobutu in a difficult situation early on in the conflict.
In 1997, before the halfway point in the year, the AFDL would capture the capital of Zaire, Kinsasha as well as the rest of the territory of the nation.
1997 saw Mobutu Sese Seko flee the country, Laurent-Désiré Kabila took power in Kinsasha and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The peace and unity of the country was short lived however and a much larger conflict sometimes known as the African World War, the second Congo conflict would begin a year later.
After the period of 1994-1996 in Burundi where the state authority collapsed, the Burundi coup of 1996 saw Pierre Buyoya an ethnic Tutsi lead the country for about 7 years.
Laurent-Désiré Kabila increasingly was viewed as nothing less than a puppet of the Rwandans and Ugandans by the Congolese people. Kabila was not able to entirely stop the cross border attacks against Uganda and Rwanda and he tacitly turned on Uganda and Rwanda by tacitly supporting the raids so it would ensure his political base at home.
In July 1998, tensions really started to reach a boiling when Kabila fired his Rwandan chief of staff James Kabarbe and demanded Rwandan troops to leave the country.
On August 2nd, 1998, the 10th brigade of the DRC Armed Forces, which were stationed in Goma defected and they named themselves the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) and their announcement gave the Rwandans and Ugandans the justification needed in their eyes to invade in support of the rebels against their former enemies.
On August 4th, 1998, after the stealing of four airplanes the Rwandan and Ugandan coalition struck a devastating blow against Kabila’s forces taking control of a key airbase in Kitona, which was only a couple hundred miles from the capital Kinsasha.
On August 13th, 1998, things looked particularly disastrous after the capturing of the Inga Dam which supplied power to Kinsasha.
However, Kabila had powerful foreign allies who intervened to help his forces on different sides of the border, but the biggest players were Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and the CNDD-FDD in Burundi.
The reason for Angola’s intervention was due to the involvement of UNITA in the Rwandan Ugandan coalition. Angola which was under the MPLF a quasi marxist government had still been in civil war against UNITA. Zimbabwe, Naimibia, and Chad had ideological and financial interests in keeping Kabila’s regime in power. The CNDD-FDD was fighting a civil war against the Tutsi led Burundian military dictator at the time who had been part of the Rwandan Ugandan coalition.
The Rwandan and Ugandan coalition forces ended up splintering though with the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) being the key leader in the Ugandan forces while the RCD remained the de-facto proxy group of Rwanda.
The tangled web of alliances in the second Congo conflict was reminiscent of World War 1 in many ways. It got so tangled in fact that the ADF the salafist extremist group mentioned before backed by the Sudanese actually allied with Christian fundamentalists in the The Lords Resistance Army (LRA) part of the specifically anti Museveni anti Ugandan bloc in the war.
As the Rwandan Ugandan alliance fractured they would even fight each other near the city of Kisangani.
The Kabila government and its allies made a lot of gains in parts of the country but the dawn of the new millennium had saw the situation descend into a bloody stalemate until Laurent-Désiré Kabila was assassinated by his own child soldier body guard on January 16th, 2001. His son Joseph Kabila who was much more of a pragmatist came to power.
As it became clear for the most part that Rwanda and Uganda had no path to victory and the Burundian government was in a much tougher situation than ever before, they agreed to a UN peace plan which saw the Rwandan and Ugandan forces withdraw under the Sun City and Pretoria agreements.
Most militias on all sides of the war either withdrew to their home countries or disarmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Joseph Kabila would be the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2001 to 2019 till opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi won the Presidency but Kabila’s party kept the majority in Parliament. The former President remains a very powerful force in the DRC despite the highly volatile nature of the country’s politics and especially in Parliament.
The Burundian civil war would take a lot longer than the Congo conflicts in large scale to end, as the civil war ended in Burundi in 2005 with the victory of the CNDD-FDD and swearing in of Pierre Nkurunziza as President while Évariste Ndayishimiye was serving in what would become the Burundian armed forces.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo still faces a conflict in the country’s Kivu province and the main group the DRC armed forces is fighting is a Hutu nationalist group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, an arch enemy of the Tutsi led government under President Paul Kagame in Kigali.
Rwanda and Burundi have very tense relations and Kigali would face economic consequences from Burundi for any hypothetical blockade attempt and would likely face armed attacks in retaliation by the forces it is fighting in the DRC.
Burundi under the CNDD-FDD played a role in the saving of the Congolese government when it was on the brink of total collapse in the early days of the Second Congo conflict.
So while the fear of attempted blockades and other coercive measures against Burundi for not taking vaccines is completely understandable, it is highly unlikely to happen because the consequences especially for Rwanda and the DRC are far bigger than any benefits it could be given by the New World Order.
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